Posts Tagged: Lenya Quinn-Davidson
For millennia, fires periodically burned through California forests, thinning trees, reducing shrubbery and clearing out downed branches and debris. Without periodic fire, the forests became more dense, with spaces between large trees filling in with a thick carpet of duff, seedlings and shrubs.
As a result, today's forests are prone to more intense and damaging fires, like the Rim Fire, King Fire, and — most recently — the Camp Fire in Butte County. These fires are burning with unprecedented severity and speed, threatening large swaths of forest, towns, and even urban areas.
Using fire as part of forest management is not a new concept. Native Americans were known to burn brush to open up hunting grounds and clear shrubbery for gathering. Decades ago, iconic Berkeley forestry professor Harold Biswell said, “Fire in the Sierra Nevada is as important as rain.”
Competing forces, however, pushed foresters and fire officials toward fire prevention and suppression, particularly the cataclysmic fires of the early 20th century that leveled entire towns and left dozens of residents and firefighters dead. The fear of out-of-control blazes and the perceived damage to timber resources launched a war on fire that has lasted a hundred years. Some forest managers are urgently trying to negotiate a truce.
Making peace with fire and turning it into a useful tool, rather than a raging threat, was the objective of an October meeting in Shaver Lake of UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources scientists, Southern California Edison forest managers, CALFIRE officials and U.S. Forest Service representatives.
The event also raised awareness of “pyrosilviculture,” a new forest management term coined by UC fire scientist Rob York to emphasize the importance of fire in silviculture, the management of forests for wood.
Forests have myriad benefits – recreational, environmental and economic. Nature lovers value the whisper of pine trees in the wind and green shade over hiking trails and ski slopes. Owls, bears, deer and other wildlife make their homes among firs, pines, oaks and cedars. Forests stabilize mountain slopes, which store water as snow for agriculture and drinking. People build their homes, businesses and schools out of the planks and boards cut from the straight, soft wood of conifer trees.
The value of California forest products was about $429 million in 2017, according to the USDA. Because fires can damage and destroy trees, the timber industry has historically been reluctant to use fire as a tool. That's changing.
“Fire is such an important ecological process, you can't manage for timber without fire,” York said.
York is the manager of the Blodgett Forest Research Station, UC Berkeley's 4,000-acre mixed conifer and oak forest near Georgetown where researchers study forest management practices for increasing timber yield while taking advantage of fire to enhance forest health and make forest stands more resilient to wildfire.
Controlled burning can be used to treat fuels and reverse these trends, but it has been inhibited by a number of barriers, including landowners' concerns about liability, risk aversion among fire management agencies, narrow burn windows, air quality limitations and other regulatory challenges. Now, public demand for prescribed fires is growing.
“I believe what moved the needle was, for several years in a row, there were high-severity fires in the news,” York said. “Wildfires were in the public zeitgeist. People began asking, ‘Why aren't we doing more prescribed fire?'”
Climate change is also intensifying the interest among the public and silviculture professionals. Because California is getting warmer and fire seasons are growing longer, high-severity fires are expected to increase.
“There would logically be a tipping point. Even though we reduce the growth of trees when we use fire, if it can prevent the loss of the forest entirely, it would be meeting the timber objective,” York said.
The vast tree die-off during the 2011-2016 drought was another jarring sign that the Sierra Nevada ecosystem is out of balance.
The U.S. Forest Service, which manages 20 million acres of forest in California, is using prescribed fire to reduce fire risk on federal forestlands, but scientists say it's not nearly enough to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. CAL FIRE is ramping up its controlled burn efforts, but it will take time to address far-reaching areas of overgrown forestlands. The agency sometimes uses mechanical measures such as mastication and chaining before burning to pre-treat fuels and prepare units for burning.
“We need to work around communities first, and then move out to the wider landscape,” said CAL FIRE division chief Jim McDougald. “If a prescribed fire moves into a subdivision and burns houses, we take 100 steps back.”
“Burning is a key element of forestland management and it can be safe if done properly,” Kocher said. “We provide classroom instruction and invite participants to join a live prescribed fire at Blodgett Forest as part of their training so they become familiar with the process.”
At the training sessions, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson said that in some cases, private landowners can conduct burns themselves. In her hometown in Trinity County, many ranchers and landowners conduct small broadcast burns to reduce fuels and improve forage. These burns are typically quite small and usually conducted in the winter.
“This can be a good option for landowners who wish to burn small areas, but we need other options for bigger, more complex burns” Quinn-Davidson said.
In other parts of the country, landowners have formed Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs) that allow landowners to work with neighbors and other community members on controlled burns, sharing equipment and labor while developing skills. The PBA model provides a low-cost, grassroots option for prescribed burning, and empowers landowners to work together, and with other key experts and partners, to bring fire back to the landscape, says Quinn-Davidson.
“People are desperate to do something about fire, and the PBA model gives them an option to actively engage with each other and with fire as a tool—it's very empowering,” said Quinn-Davidson.
The Federal Government has proposed spending $55 to $192 million to clear large swaths of land in the Western U.S. to create fuel breaks that slow the spread of wildfire, reported Brady McCombs of the Associated Press. The fuel breaks will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah.
Fuel breaks are a useful tool if used along with other wildfire prevention methods that can keep firefighters safer and potentially help out in broad scopes of land because they are long and thin, said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, the area fire advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension. They can be especially helpful by providing perimeters for prescribed burns. But they must be in the right places, she said.
The article said the BLM has done about 1,200 assessments of fuel breaks since 2002 and found they help control fires about 80 percent of the time. The new fuel breaks will be 500 feet wide or less and created along highways, rural roads and other areas already disturbed.
As California grappled with a record-breaking heatwave last week and 236 wildfires, officials are bracing for the worst, reported Maanvi Singh in the Guardian.
The fires have been mostly fueled by grass and brush that came up during the state's especially wet winter and mild spring, according to a CAL FIRE official. UC Cooperative Extension fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson said California's annual wildfire season is growing longer – beginning earlier in the spring and stretching later in the fall.
“It's not unusual for us to see this many small fires in June,” she said. “But 50 years ago, so many fires this early on – plus these extreme, high temperatures in June – would have been abnormal.”
It is difficult to predict how bad the rest of this fire season will be based on the number of fires so far, said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.
"Our worst fire years aren't necessarily the years that we've had the highest number of fires,” he noted. “All it takes is one – one huge, destructive fire to ruin the whole year."
Historically, fire fighting was a male-dominated field. With broader diversity needed, women are seizing the opportunity, reported The Nature Conservancy.
TNC ran a feature on its website about a prescribed fire on its Disney Wildness Preserve in Florida staffed and managed by an all-women crew.
"Everybody was here to work, and communication went well," said Jana Mott, the day's burn boss and TNC's northern Florida stewardship project coordinator. "It was like a well-oiled machine. There was a high level of professionalism all around. It felt like just another day of doing business on the fireline."
The article also quoted UC Cooperative Extension fire scienctist Lenya Quinn-Davidson. She is director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council. Quinn-Davidson helped plan and lead the Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (WTREX) in Tallahassee, as well as two previous WTREX.
The field of wildland fire has for too long been “so conventional, so static—not only operationally, but also culturally,” Quinn Davidson said. “We see now that it's time for that to change. We need more perspectives, more ideas, more innovation—more creative discomfort. And we need to create space for women and men of different backgrounds to have a voice and contribute to this evolution.”
Read more about WTREX in the article Lighting up a new path: the Women-in-Fire Rx Fire Training Exchange (WTREX) by Quinn-Davidson on the UC ANR Forest Research and Outreach Blog.
New Series of Nitrogen Management Advice Available
(Cal Ag Today) March 28
California growers can download a new series of publications summarizing efficient nitrogen management practices from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The publications are designed to assist growers in complying with state regulations for tracking and reporting nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops, in an effort to prevent nitrogen from leaching into groundwater.
UC helps growers comply with new regulations
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, March 27
A few months ago, while I was working with Todd Fitchette on a special package we were doing (or, he was doing and I was pitching in on) that focused on the 50th anniversary of the Citrus Research Board, I wrote a column about the benefits of land-grant universities such as the University of California (UC).
It's not an overstatement, I wrote, that the vast network of UC Cooperative Extension offices and research facilities has enabled agriculture in the Golden State to survive amid daunting challenges.
Communities come together to reforest Middletown Trailside Park
(Record Bee) Lucy Llewellyn Byard, March 27
Outdoorsman Greg Gusti, a University of California cooperative extension director emeritus who specializes in forests and wild lands ecology, addressed the crowd and gave them instructions on how to plant the trees 20 feet apart; showed them what 20 feet looked like on a tape measure, told them to plant the green side up and to keep the roots straight.
… Students dug in groups, sharing shovels and gloves. Sofie Hall and Elissa Holyoke worked with Michael Jones, a UC Cooperative Extension Forestry Advisor to plant their saplings.
The science and politics of genetically engineered salmon: 5 questions answered
(The Conversation) Alison Van Eenennaam, March 27
A Massachusetts-based company earlier this month cleared the last regulatory hurdle from the Food and Drug Administration to sell genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. Animal genomics expert Alison Van Eenennaam, who served on an advisory committee to the FDA to evaluate the AquAdvantage salmon, explains the significance of the FDA's move and why some have criticized its decision.
Students learn about insects at Farm Day in the City
(ABC 23) Amanda Mason, March 26
"Every single insect plays a role, even if it's only purpose is to get eaten by something. Everything is important," said Haviland.
David Haviland an entomologist at the University of California's Extension who studies insects and helps farmers manage agricultural pests, spent Tuesday at the Kern County Fairgrounds teaching students about good bugs and bad bugs at Farm Day in the City.
Expert: Speak up now about agriculture's carbon footprint
(Leader Telegram) Brooke Bechen, March 25
Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California-Davis, isn't afraid to speak up, particularly on Twitter where he writes under the handle @GHGGuru. He sees 2.5 million people visiting his Twitter account each month, which provides accurate information on air emissions and busts myths distributed by those looking to attack animal agriculture.
“Being in California is like being at Ground Zero,” he said. “There are urban centers of people who think they're food experts, but most of these people have never set foot on a farm and don't know anything about agriculture.
Wildfire Speaker Series Tonight: Fire Resistant Homes & Defensible Space
(YubaNet) March 25
…Dr. Kate Wilkin is the new Forest and Fire Adviser with UC Cooperative Extension in Butte, Nevada, Sutter, and Yuba Counties. She recently moved here from Berkeley, CA where she was postdoctoral researcher focused on wildfire emissions and fire-forest-water relations. Her PhD, also at UC Berkeley, focused on the efficacy of fuel treatments in Northern California shrublands to reduce fire hazards and on mixed conifer forest-fire-water and fire-biodiversity relations. Before moving to California, Kate grew up in rural Appalachia and then explored other fire-prone regions of the US as a natural resource manager and prescribed fire burner on public and nonprofit lands. Based on these experiences and more, she knows that we need to use solutions responsibly, both old and new, to solve our forest health crisis. Kate will be focusing on incorporating fire safe concepts into residential landscaping.
UC Cooperative offers water-measurement class
(David Enterprise) March 25
California water rights holders are required by state law to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, the University of California Cooperative Extension is offering training to receive certification April 4 in Redding and Woodland.
Costa Mesa designates April as Coyote Awareness Month and approves further informational efforts to manage them
(Los Angeles Times) Luke Money, March 20
…In the past 30 days, about 20 coyote sightings or encounters in Costa Mesa were logged with Coyote Cacher, an online reporting system [created by Niamh Quinn, UCCE advisor, and IGIS].
UCCE Biologicals Conference Introduces New Crop Protection Tools for Growers
(Vegetables West) Matthew Malcolm, March 19, 2019
Biocontrol agents, beneficial microbes, entomopathogenic fungi and bacteria that can enhance crop production — these were all topics of discussion at the recent UC Cooperative Extension Ag Innovations Conference in Santa Maria, led by UCCE Entomology & Biologicals Advisor Surendra Dara. Watch this brief interview with Surendra as he shares more about what was discussed.
Landowners aim to fight fire with fire
(Benito Link) Blaire Strohn, March 19, 2019
The 2018 wildfire season in California was devastating, which left local landowners to consider how future blazes can be prevented. Their solution: more fire.
…UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor Devii Rao said the meeting also looked at Cal Fire funding and prescribed burn associations. She mentioned that last year former Gov. Jerry Brown signed two pieces of legislation related to prescribed burning:
Senate Bill 901 provides Cal Fire $1 billion for forest health, fuel load, and prescribed burns over five years, including $35 million a year for prescribed fire and other reduction projects.
Senate Bill 1260 requires Cal Fire to collaborate with public and private landowners on prescribed burns. They must also create a program for pre-certification for a “burn boss,” a private contractor that has experience in prescribed burning.
…In June, Rao will co-host a meeting with Lenya Quinn-Davidson and Jeff Stackhouse from UCCE Humboldt County. The meeting is expected to focus on how to develop a prescribed burn association, in addition to a small burn demonstration on a local private ranch.
A More Humane Livestock Industry, Brought to You By Crispr
(Wired) Gregory Barber, March 19
Hopes were running high for cow 401, and cow 401 serenely bore the weight of expectations. She entered the cattle chute obligingly, and as the vet searched her uterus, making full use of the plastic glove that covered his arm up to his shoulder, she uttered nary a moo. A week ago, Cow 401 and four other members of her experimental herd at UC Davis were in the early stages of pregnancy. But now, following a string of disappointing checkups, it was all down to her. Alison Van Eenennaam, the animal geneticist in charge of the proceedings, kept watch from off to one side, galoshes firmly planted in the damp manure, eyes fixed on a portable ultrasound monitor. After a few moments, the vet delivered his fifth and final diagnosis. “She's not pregnant,” he said. Van Eenennaam looked up. “Ah, shit,” she muttered.
Climate change is hurting migrating waterbirds across the West. It could get worse
(Sacramento Bee) Andrew Sheeler, March 18
…Some birds, like the black-necked stilt and the sandhill crane, which breed early in the season, have thrived in the warming climate, said Mohammad Safeeq, a hydrologist with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and an adjunct professor at UC Merced.
But others suffer. That includes the killdeer, the Wilson's snipe, the black tern, and the western and Clark's grebe.
“We have looked at 14 species and among eight open-water and shoreline foraging species that have undergone significant population declines, five were negatively associated with temperature increases,” Safeeq said in an email interview.
Group seeks healthy, resilient forests and communities
(Plumas News) March 18
…A public workshop was held at the Quincy Library on Jan. 15th. Presenter Jeff Stackhouse, the Livestock and Natural Resources advisor for the U.C. Cooperative Extension in Humboldt, presents case studies from the prescribed burn association.
US researchers moving abroad to avoid FDA's CRISPR-edited animal regulations
(Genetic Literacy Project) Cameron English, Alison Van Eenennaam, March 14
One day soon, farmers may be able to raise food animals immune to deadly diseases and spare them painful but necessary procedures like horn removal. These innovations, made possible by CRISPR and other gene-editing techniques, could cut the cost of food production, reduce antibiotic use in agriculture and dramatically improve animal welfare. But federal regulation may very well stifle these developments in the US.
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a plan to regulate gene-edited animals as veterinary drugs under the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, because their DNA is “intentionally altered.” The proposal has drawn harsh criticism from animal scientists, some of whom are packing up their labs and leaving the US to avoid the FDA's rules. Food animals, these experts say, should be regulated based on the risk they pose to human health, not the breeding method that produced them.
Corky Anderson's energy, innovation helped save California's pistachio industry
(Bakersfield Californian) Steven E. Mayer, March 13
"Corky was an important player in the early pistachio industry," said a Kern County farm adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension who specializes in citrus and pistachios.
"And he was a great cooperator," Kallsen said. "He allowed lots of test trials on his properties."
… In 1980, Anderson and Puryear's first patented rootstock changed the industry, said Kevin Blackwell, general manager of Pioneer Nursery, the wholesale business founded by the two entrepreneurs.
"In our heyday, we were selling a million trees a year," said Blackwell, who said he has known Anderson for 47 years.
No one does it alone, Kallsen noted. Anderson built and refined his patented rootstock based on earlier research by the University of California.
Farmers protect crops in rain's aftermath
(Ag Alert) Ching Lee, March 13
Franz Niederholzer, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties, said though cold weather does reduce the risk of most fungal diseases, other problems such as bacterial blast and jacket rot—also a fungal disease—are more prevalent during cool weather.
Cooler weather, however, does help to extend the bloom, he said. That allows farmers more time to apply fungicide, which is recommended at the beginning of bloom and again at full bloom, he said.
Brent Holtz, UCCE farm advisor in San Joaquin County, said he hasn't seen too many problems with fungal diseases at this point, because of how cool it's been, but there have been more incidents of bacterial blast, which can infect trees under stress. In orchards with high nematode populations, the bacteria can enter wounds on the surface of the plants created by frost, he noted.
"It blights the blossoms, and if the blossom is dead, they don't produce fruit," Holtz said.
Michael learns about 4-H in Fresno County
(KMPH) Stephen Hawkins, March 13, 2019
The 4-H Youth Development Program is preparing for events all over the Central Valley and you are invited.
Michael Ikahihifo spent the morning at Dry Creek Park in Clovis to see what the local 4-H has planned.
The City of Cypress calls for its residents to be “Coyote Aware”
(OC Breeze) March 13
The Cypress City Council recently adopted a coyote management plan to address community concerns about the presence of coyotes in Cypress. While coyotes are generally reclusive animals who avoid human contact, it is important to be aware of their presence and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of your property and pets.
…Residents are encouraged to reportcoyote activity on Coyote Cacher:
Coyote Cacher allows the City to monitor all reported encounters.
Residents can also use Coyote Cacher to view a map of reported
encounters and sign up to receive email alerts.
California's super bloom attracts swarms of migrating butterflies
(CNN) David Williams, March 13
This year's wildflower super bloom is not only filling California deserts with eye-popping displays of color -- it's also providing a feast for swarms of painted lady butterflies making their way north from Mexico.
"This is the biggest outbreak since 2005," said Art Shapiro, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who's been studying the migration of butterflies in the state since 1972.
…"I saw more butterflies in the last 10 minutes than I've seen my entire life," Jason Suppes wrote Tuesday on Twitter. Suppes is an education specialist at an agricultural research facility in Irvine.
Grape growers continue push to mechanize
(Western Farm Press) Lee Allen, March 13
…In Fresno, growers affiliated with the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association met to discuss the latest UC research on incidents of disease and machine injury to trunks and rootstock.
… “Growers are having a hard time finding workers to maintain their vineyards and increasing labor costs are challenging grape-farming's economic sustainability,” says UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor George Zhuang. “We're studying the use of machines to reduce the number of people needed to perform tasks like pruning.
“Because canopy architecture and yield characteristics involving mechanically-pruned vines are much different from those that are hand-pruned, water and fertilizer requirements for the mechanically pruned vines can be quite different. Performance of different rootstocks in mechanical pruning systems is critical for both yield and fruit quality of grape production in the San Joaquin Valley.”
…Kaan Kurtural, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist in the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Department, whose research involves improving vineyard production efficiency through canopy and crop load management via mechanization, says the case for switching out hand labor with machines gets stronger with growers using such mechanization for pruning, suckering, and removing shoots and leaves.
“Mechanical pruning can produce more stable year-to-year fruit yields of better quality than traditional and more costly hand pruning spurs or canes.” His comments were based on a Kern County two-year research trial looking for ways for growers to reduce both cost and water use.
As Wildfires Devour Communities, Toxic Threats Emerge
(Reuters) Sharon Bernstein, March 13
At U.C. Davis, where researchers are studying eggs from backyard chickens that may have breathed smoke and pecked at ash in areas affected by wildfires, the work is complicated.
"In an urban fire you're dealing with contaminants that don't go away – arsenic, heavy metals, copper, lead, transformer fluid, brake fluid, fire retardant," said veterinarian Maurice Pitesky, who is leading the study.
DR. GLENDA HUMISTON: Managing our Lands to Manage our Water
Maven's Notebook, March 13, 2019
Dr. Glenda Humiston is Vice President of Agriculture & Natural Resources for the University of California. At the 2019 California Irrigation Institute conference, Dr. Humiston was the opening keynote speaker, and in her speech, she talked about work being done to address drought vulnerability, the importance of managing watersheds, the goals of the California Economic Summit, and the promising future of biomass.
She began by saying that we have known for a long time that water insecurity is a huge issue, and not just due to climate change or droughts; it's also policy, regulations, allocations and technology – there are a lot of issues and managing the effects of it are very challenging.
Hearing planned to examine the future of development in California's most fire prone regions
(Lake County News) March 13
…The hearing, led by Senators Henry Stern and Mike McGuire, chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, respectively, titled “Living Resiliently in the New Abnormal: The Future of Development in California's Most Fire Prone Regions” will be held Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the State Capitol in Room 4203.
…Testifying at the hearing are:
· Mark Ghilarducci, director, California Office of Emergency Services;
· Bob Fenton, regional administrator, FEMA Region 9;
· Dr. Max Moritz, statewide wildfire specialist, University of California Cooperative Extension;
· Jeff Lambert, director of planning, city of Oxnard, past president, American Planning Association, California Chapter;
· Chief Kate Dargan, California State Fire Marshal (retired), Cal Fire;
· Chief Ken Pimlott, director (retired), Cal Fire;
· Scott Lotter, former mayor, city of Paradise;
· Tim Snellings, planning director, Butte County;
· Chief Michael McLaughlin, Cosumnes Community Services District Fire Department;
· Ty Bailey, California Professional Firefighters, president, Sacramento Area Firefighters, Local 522, fire captain, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.